Affordable Art for everyone

The Fringe Arts: a pop-up store that sells affordable art

I went to the Spier Contemporary Art Exhibition 2010 a couple of times. It showcased a great mixture of South African contemporary art. Even more than the art, I liked the little art shop next to the coffee shop. It was like a little art exhibition itself. Plus, you could buy every single piece of art.

That’s how I met Chantal Louw and Thessa Bos, the collective and owners of The Fringe Arts. Their aim is to make art more accessible. And they do that with an art-store. A pop-up store to be exact. Pop-up is very common in other countries, but still new to South Africa.

The Fringe Arts offers excellent design and art and gets feedback like "This is better than the exhibition," and "The best selection of Cape Town art and design ever".

The Creators

Both coming from the arts, Thessa used to be a commercial and cultural officer of the Netherlands consulate and art historian Chantal was in charge of the popular arts gallery João Ferreira in Cape Town, they both decided to give up secure jobs to follow a dream. After 1,5 years of brainstorming and concepting, they decided to be a mobile gallery. Mobile, pop-up, a store that moves around. The limit is to be at a spot for no longer than four months.

The Fringe Arts uses empty spaces, unused spaces and is also part of an exhibition if possible. The Fringe Arts pops up and wants to work against the frustration that art could seemingly be enjoyed by only a select few. Chantal and Thessa’s philosophy: bringing art to broader public.

A mishmash of creative output

The Spier Contemporary 2010 exhibition was a great opportunity and a great start. "This is exactly what we wanted," says Thessa Bos. The Fringe Arts is a store/gallery, a 100% local, with only South African design. Thessa says "We combine design with art. We work with people who really create something original". Furthermore she says, "With us you can buy an art piece for R2000, that’s an important aspect."

The Financial Mail portrayed The Fringe Arts in May 2010 like this: "The store is populated by a mishmash of creative output, such as chairs made out of old suitcases, tea cup candlesticks and wooden tennis racket frames with mirrors in them." Not much to add. At The Fringe Arts you will find designs you know from the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Buscuit Mill, jewellery from Skermunkil for example (I loved her stuff so much, she even made my engagement ring).

Thessa and Chantal meet designers and artists, check which works fit the particular pop-up and decide on a price with the artists. Craft and art-stores in South Africa usually focus on Africa with very African themes. „We felt there was a need for something else“ says Thessa. At the Fringe Arts you won’t necessarily find animals, beads and co – "this is another market," Thessa says.

The Fringe Arts started in the recession, a pop up in empty spaces makes sense. It’s a profit share with the artists and benefits all sides.

"In the end we cater for ourselves. We know each other’s budgets, we know how we tick. Now we brought it all together", concludes Thessa Bos.

For more information visit

by Antonia Heil

The Fringe on Kloof
99B Kloof Street | Gardens | Cape Town | +27 (0)72 252 9709


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